From Charles to Brian: A world record's run

Ten players have held the honour of owning Test cricket's highest score - we look at the progression below

Adam Burnett

12 April 2017, 06:15 PM

It's 13 years to the day since Brian Charles Lara became the first person to reclaim the world record for most runs in a Test innings, scoring Test cricket's first quadruple-century in the process with an epic unbeaten 400.  

Lara, a prolific maker of big hundreds, still owns the record, with Sri Lanka's Mahela Jayawardena the closest to toppling the Prince of Trinidad in the years since, posting a national record 374 in July 2006 – the fourth-highest score of all time.

But while Jayawardena's feat was impressive, it doesn't earn him a spot on the below list, which recaps the world record progression for the highest Test score – and identifies the 10 champions who have achieved it in their time at the top.

165 retired hurt – Charles Bannerman

Australia v England, MCG, March 1877

Test #1

Bannerman's world record came – logically – in the very first Test but it's all the more impressive in that it endured for more than seven years, or 15 matches, before it was broken. Perhaps more famous than the highest score world record is the fact that, quite unbelievably, the percentage of runs Bannerman scored in that first match (67.34: 165 out of 245, with no-one else reaching 20) remains the highest in a completed innings, through 140 years of Test cricket.

211 – Billy Murdoch

Australia v England, The Oval, August 1884

Test #16

Former Australia Test captain Billy Murdoch, circa 1895 // Getty
Former Australia Test captain Billy Murdoch, circa 1895 // Getty

Murdoch posted just his second century (the last of his career) and the first double-century in Test cricket history, taking batting to new heights during a drawn match in which two other Australians also made hundreds. The Victorian, who was 29 at the time, spent more than eight hours accumulating his world record, which would last for more than 19 years.

287 – Tip Foster

England v Australia, SCG, December 1903

Test #78

The first man to take the world record out of Australian hands was, incredibly, a debutant. Reginald 'Tip' Foster destroyed Murdoch's mark and went within touching distance of a triple century – something Test cricket would have to wait another 26 years to see. Foster's imperious 287 remains the benchmark for debut Test innings, and until New Zealand's Ross Taylor hit 290 at the WACA in November 2015, it was also the long-standing mark for a visiting batsman in Australia.

325 – Andy Sandham

England v West Indies, Sabina Park, April 1930

Test #193

Where Foster was a debutant, Sandham was at the other end of his career – playing his final Test. And he batted as if he didn't want it to ever end, becoming the first Test triple-centurion in a match that lasted nine days before the two sides shook hands on a draw so England could catch their ship home from Jamaica. In the first-ever Test series hosted in the Caribbean, Sandham opened the innings, and faced 640 balls across 10 hours as England racked up 849 – still the third-highest total of all time. Sandham's groundbreaking triple-ton remains fourth among the highest scores by an Englishman, though it only stood as the world record for three months – the shortest period for which anyone has held it. 

334 – Sir Don Bradman

Australia v England, Headingley, July 1930

Test #196

A young Bradman after claiming the world record Test score // Getty
A young Bradman after claiming the world record Test score // Getty

The 'Boy from Bowral' was only 21 but already the most devastating batsman the world had ever seen, and it was on this tour of England that the hype became legend. In the first Test, he made 131, in the second he made 254, so by stumps on day one of the third Test in Leeds, he was 309 not out, having hammered a century before lunch. Bradman's epic knock stood as the shining light of Australian Test innings, the number 334 becoming synonymous with the Don himself.

336no – Wally Hammond

England v New Zealand, Eden Park, March 1933

Test #226

In a busy period for batting world records, England legend Hammond toppled Bradman with an ahead-of-its-time knock of 336 not out against a hapless New Zealand. Hammond was at the crease for a little over five hours, registering the fastest triple-century in history in terms of time, and plundered 10 sixes – a number that has been passed only six times since. In a rain-affected draw, Hammond's stunning knock (his third hundred came in 47 minutes) gave the Auckland onlookers something truly special to remember.

364 – Sir Len Hutton

England v Australia, The Oval, August 1938

Test #266

Hutton poses while playing for Yorkshire in 1947 // Getty
Hutton poses while playing for Yorkshire in 1947 // Getty

Hutton trails only Sobers and Bradman on this list in terms of youth, having knocked up his epic 364 as a 22-year-old. In his brief five-Test career prior, the right-hander had hit an even 100 twice, but in the final Test against Australia in London, he kicked on spectacularly to anchor a total of 7-903 declared – still the highest in Ashes history. Hutton's classic was England's 100th century in Tests, and he remains the last of his countrymen to hold this world record.

365no – Sir Garfield Sobers

West Indies v Pakistan, Sabina Park, February-March 1958

Test #450

Legendary West Indian Sobers in action in 1972 // Getty
Legendary West Indian Sobers in action in 1972 // Getty

The first non-Ashes player to put his name to this record, Sobers was also the youngest when he wiped Hutton from the record books at just 21 years of age. That said, the legendary allrounder was already 17 matches into his Test career, having debuted as a 17-year-old, and in the third Test in Jamaica he put Pakistan to the sword with his maiden hundred, sharing in a 446-run stand with opener Conrad Hunte (260) – still the seventh-highest Test partnership of all time.

375 – Brian Lara

West Indies v England, Antigua Recreation Ground, April 1994

Test #1259

Sobers hands the world record baton to a young Lara in April 1994 // Getty
Sobers hands the world record baton to a young Lara in April 1994 // Getty

Sobers' record lasted for an unprecedented 36 years until it was toppled by another special young West Indian – Brian Lara. The elder statesmen was on hand to see the mark fall at the flashy hands and dancing feet of the precociously talented left-hander, who spent almost 13 hours grinding England into the St John's dust. World record safely in his keeping, Lara headed to England a couple of weeks later and blasted 501no for Warwickshire to claim the Test and first-class double.

380 – Matthew Hayden

Australia v Zimbabwe, Perth, October 2003

Test #1661


In the form of his life, on a batting paradise in Perth and against a relatively pedestrian attack, Hayden tucked into Zimbabwe's offerings like a fat man return to the buffet for a second helping. It took him 380 runs to get his fill, by which time he'd smashed 38 fours and 11 sixes in one of the more ruthless batting displays of the modern era. Australia declared at 5-735 and won by an innings and plenty.

400no – Brian Lara

West Indies v England, Antigua Recreation Ground, April 2004

Test #1696

As if personally affronted by Hayden's seizure of the record, Lara needed just six months to snatch it back. A week short of a decade on from his magical 375, the West Indian headed back to St John's in Antigua and, against the same opposition, duly peeled off a staggering 400 not out. In all, the 34-year-old hit 43 fours and four sixes, batted for 12 minutes longer than he had a decade earlier, and spared his side the humiliation of a home series whitewash.